What Types of Support Services are Available to Military Students?

Since the Tragedy of 9/11 American colleges and universities have been urged to offer special support services to military students. The government passed a law in 2008 called the Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the “New G.I. Bill.” The bill details the kinds of assistance that veterans should be afforded by institutions of higher learning to serve the roughly two million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that are now qualified to receive assistance.

Studies have been Done to Identify their Needs

The needs of veterans are different than those of the general student population. They may be older, they may have emotional or physical limitations and they have been displaced. The law passed in 2008 says that schools must provide information that will help the veterans, or their family members who take advantage of the services, find out about financial benefits and prevent schools from engaging in fraudulent or abusive recruitment of military students. The American Council on Education has done extensive studies of the needs of service people and of the compliance of universities and colleges. These include financial aid information, academic and mental health counseling, social and support groups and career and employment counseling.

Assistance Programs for Students who are Veterans or on Current Active Duty

There are several government and private benefits for veterans earning degrees:

  • Veterans Educational Assistance Program. Military personnel who made contributions from their service pay are matched on a two-to-one basis by the government for educational expenses. The funds may be used to earn degrees or get vocational training, to get licenses and certifications and for other educational expenses. Benefits depend upon the number of contributions. But vets have ten years from their release to use them.
  • Yellow Ribbon Program. The program pays tuition and fees incurred on a residential basis for public schools and the lower amount of the tuition or the national tuition maximum for a private institution.
  • MGIB-Accelerated Payment. Veterans may be able to take a large portion of this funding for education in a technical area in one lump payment. It is intended to offset the greater cost of a high-tech degree.

The Veterans Administration website has a complete listing of other programs offered by the GI Bill.

All Benefits May not be offered at All Schools

Although governmental benefits are universally applicable, not all schools offer their own programs for veterans and their families. However, most schools are in the process of developing such programs. The International Center for Educational Statistics gives several statistics about military benefits in schools. Only 19 percent of schools had a physical area dedicated to the use of veterans. A higher number have dedicated webpages and organizations for support of students in military programs. At 76 percent of schools, credit is awarded to students for training received in the military. Many schools offer discounted tuition or scholarships and refund tuition for students who are called to active duty during their studies.

Though most schools offer counseling on financial aid and career assistance, fewer have counseling programs for PTSD and brain or physical injuries. That is because there are not enough training programs for those counselors. With the governmental emphasis on support services to military students, however, this is likely to change.